Playing music and creativity

How does playing music contribute to creativity in the rest of our lives? What is creativity? Commonly we think of creativity as the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. However the use of imagination and creativity transcend the arts spilling over into all aspects of our lives. Music can help stimulate our imagination, one of the key components of the creative process.

Every child possesses the innate ability to be creative. It is one of the key attributes that sets us apart from other living beings. We talk a great deal about the benefits of music lessons in terms of brain development and education. Despite the validity of those claims we shouldn’t overlook another truth, which is that music encourages creativity and creativity and imagination are what make us human. To paraphrase composer, Vincent Persichetti, music (creativity and imagination) helps us to be more human, to recognize beauty, to be closer to the infinite beyond this world, to have something to cling to, to be more compassionate, more gentle, more loving and to be more alive.

Knowing that we are all born with creative aptitude, the question then isn’t what fosters creativity but why isn’t everyone creative? Where is the creative potential being lost? How was it crippled? A good question might be not why do people create, but rather, why do people not create?

Ken Robinson, education specialist blames our current early education practices for killing creativity citing such things as our attitudes toward making mistakes and about acting or being different. The system often emphasizes imitation, memorization and fixed rules and formulas, all which do little to encourage creativity. Children raised in an atmosphere of primarily replicating what they see and participating in coordinated group activities lack the framework to do the more challenging task of coming up with new ideas, mastering self expression and finding innovative ways to solve problems.

Beethoven might go through over 50 variations of a musical idea before choosing the one he liked. Despite his numerous failures in trying to create the light bulb, Thomas Edison is commonly believed to have said, “I never failed once. It just happened to be a 2,000-step process.”

Since 1990, creativity scores for school children in America been been steadily declining. It is certainly no coincidence that that is right around the time that music and arts programs began being cut from our public schools. This is tragic as we face enormous challenges in the 21st century that will require highly creative solutions.

Parag Chordia, Director of the Music Intelligence Lab at Georgia Tech, presents convincing  evidence that music is a significant, if not essential contributor, to the development and cultivation of creativity.  “To be a great engineer; to really produce innovative products and to advance the frontiers of science, you have to be creative. It’s not just that music is a diversion or an extracurricular, but it’s actually something that’s fundamental.” Based on this insight it isn’t surprising that the foremost technical designers and engineers in Silicon Valley are almost all practicing musicians.

Because music stimulates creativity and can help contribute to the development of a more creative mind, learning to play music is as relevant now as it ever has been. The three basic components of creativity are: problem solving, self-expression, and imagination; with imagination being the wellspring of creativity. It takes courage and confidence to imagine and that is exactly what helps those who we call to creative to question the status quo and push the boundaries of possibility!

Playing music, especially improvisation and music composition, are highly engaging processes that activate multiple areas of the brain and help us to develop greater creative capacity. Simply listening to music can help relax us, and relaxation is key to creativity. When our minds are at ease we’re more likely to direct our attention inward. In contrast, when we are focused our attention tends to be directed outward.

Creativity is one of the most essential tools for a child to develop if they want to be successful later in life. Creative development in children can be directly correlated to their future success in all kinds of careers including scientists, physicians and entrepreneurs.





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